Tag Archives: Berner Oberland

Day 19 – Too Much Hiking Today

A dubious sky greeted Raul and Lauren this morning, so after breakfast, they decided to skip the cable car trip up Schilthorn to Piz Gloria. Instead, they departed with 1,5 L of H2O for perhaps a four-hour hike, a hike to a glacier field that is supposed to be good for a rainy day.

Since they weren’t going to hike all day, they didn’t pack a lunch but brought an apple, a granola bar, and some delicious Swiss chocolate bars. The sky continued its deliberation, with periods of light sprinkles, but it mostly seemed to be clearing up. They set out from Gimmelwald toward the Sefinen Valley and Chilchbalm, the glacier field, heading downhill for half an hour but then moving ever uphill. They passed several waterfalls, for the snow is melting on top of the mountains and making them full. They more or less followed the course of a raging river down below. As they neared the end of the trail, a huge pile of snow and forest debris covered the way forward. It looked as though an avalanche or landslide had destroyed the path, and a sign warned that further passage was prohibited.

From here there was a choice to make: return to Gimmelwald the way they came or try a more challenging hike up and around the valley, with an approach to Gimmelwald from above. The loop is said to take approximately five hours, and they had already covered at least an hour and a half. Halfway or so, the map showed a mountain refuge that might have provisions for the travellers. They set out with high spirits, but the steep climb was beginning to take its toll on Lauren.

The views of the valley and surrounding mountains were quite naturally magnificent. The mountains, covered in pine trees and wildflowers, were breathtaking. The weather was great as well, with cool temperatures and periods of cloud cover to protect them from the sun. They kept climbing for about two to three hours, and at points the trail was only recently dug out, so they weren’t sure if they were supposed to be on it at all. Raul, of course, always felt “fine,” but with the endless steep climb, the difficulty of the trail started to outweigh the beautiful scenery for Lauren.

By the time the mountain refuge was in their sights, Lauren was weary and of low spirits from the steep climb. The hut was still far off, and they almost gave up when they came upon a section of the trail which was obscured by about 50 yards of snow. They scrambled over the snow and persevered over the next ridge before deciding it was best to just return to Gimmelwald the way they had come. Even if the hut was open (not a certainty), they still had not reached the point at which the trail would turn back to Gimmelwald. By this point, they had literally climbed a mountain and made it just past the tree line. To conserve water, they even drank a few drops of rainwater caught in some leaves on the mountain. The return trip took almost three hours, and the last 40 minutes were in light rain, which they were prepared for with their sweet rain jackets.

Back in the room, they were too tired to do anything but take a nap, and the rain made outdoor activities unviable anyway. Lauren had forgotten her Lenten resolution to “not say anything at all” if she didn’t have anything nice to say and thus had complained about the difficulty of the hike. She felt much better back at the pension and played Bejeweled to relieve her stress, while Raul napped. It was an early evening, and they got a good rest for the next day of travel.

Confœderatio Helvetica
Coat of Arms

Time Plan Sleep in
Day 19 Sunday 3 June Gimmelwald
08:00 ▲▲▲The Schilthorn and a 10,000-Foot Breakfast, take cable-car from Gimmelwald, S₣37 from Mürren, 2 per hour, 30m
10:00 Take cable-car down to Birg
10:15 ▲▲Birg to Gimmelwald via Brünli hike, only if clear of snow, 4 hours

Day 18 – No Hikes Today

After breakfast this morning, Raul and Lauren descended by cable car and crossed Lauterbrunnen Valley to the town of Wengen. Their first stop was the Coop grocery store where they purchased picnic fare: salami, Manchego cheese, baguette, butter, yogurt, croissant, and pastry. The plan was to take a lift to the top of a cliff overlooking the town and hike from there to Kleine Scheidegg, which is the train stop between Wengen and Jungfraujoch. Before taking the lift, they dropped by the Tourist Information and were dismayed once again to learn that the hike they planned to do is closed due to recent heavy snow in the region.

The travellers continued with their plan to reach Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe at over 11,000 ft. It is difficult to imagine that the railway line was built more than 100 years ago.

The weather today was perfect, which was good for Raul and Lauren, but also good for everyone else. The entire excursion from ascent to descent was very crowded. Similar to their experiences in Austria and the rest of Switzerland, it is readily apparent that prosperity has reached beyond the West. Whereas in the past, most travellers would have been from the U.S., Europe, or Japan, now there are more travellers from China, Korea, and India. At Jungfraujoch today, most of the tourists were from India.

At the top, they took in the views, particularly of three large mountains with an interesting storyline: Mönch (the Monk) protects Jungfrau (the Maiden) from Eiger (the Ogre). The viewing platform also allowed them a look at Aletsch Glacier, the longest in Europe at nearly 11 miles.

At this altitude, one can have fun in the snow all year round (it was in the 20s at the top today). Raul and Lauren did not ski, but there is a zip-line that crosses the slopes, which they both enjoyed immensely. Lauren did not cry this time. She knew one landed directly in the snow at the end of the line, but until she experienced it, she did not realize that one actually plowed into the ground at full speed. Luckily, they were wearing lots of layers, and they walked away unbruised.

Another activity at Jungfraujoch was a literal walk through a gallery of ice sculptures. They passed through a series of tunnels made completely of ice–floor, ceiling, and walls.

They stopped at one final viewpoint, and as they were heading out, Raul noticed a group of Indian travellers posing for a photograph and offered to take a picture of the whole group. After taking the picture with several of the group’s cameras, a couple of them were so grateful that they wanted to pose with Raul and Lauren. Not knowing what else to do, they acceded. It all happened so fast. One of them even took a headshot of Lauren, commenting how beautiful she looked in the sunlight. Perhaps it was her snow-white complexion. He asked for their email address, and they were glad to give it.

Descending to Lauterbrunnen, they decided to attempt a hike on the Gimmelwald side of the valley. The trailhead is at the top of a funicular from Mürren which had stopped running for the day only shortly before they arrived. Foiled once again.

They resigned to returning to their pension in Gimmelwald from Mürren following the service road that connects the two towns. It is a rather short walk, but they were in no hurry, so it took them about an hour. They were amused on the way down by munching cattle and prancing lambs. Raul led them through someone’s backyard where they saw some guinea pigs and rabbits.

At the pension, they enjoyed dinner on the terrace with fantastic views across the valley to Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger.

Confœderatio Helvetica
Coat of Arms

Time Plan Sleep in
Day 18 Saturday 2 June Gimmelwald
Jungfrau Rail Timetables PDF
07:30 Self-guided walk
▲▲▲Männlichen-Kleine Scheidegg hike & ▲▲▲Jungfraujoch
08:00 Depart Gimmelwald for Wengen on cable-car to Schilthornbahn station near Stechelberg
Total duration: 51m
Saved S₣16,20
08:12 Bus 14108 to Lauterbrunnen
08:37 Depart Lauterbrunnen on R 343 to Wengen
08:51 Arrive Wengen, purchase picnic food across from station
09:15 Take gondola from Wengen to Männlichen, every 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes from lift station to peak
09:40 Begin hike to Kleine Scheidegg
Duration: 1h
11:00 ▲▲▲Jungfraujoch, take train from Kleine Scheidegg, sit on right side, S₣87 round-trip
Duration: 1h
Saved S₣29
12:00 Return to Gimmelwald, S₣18 through Wengen
Saved S₣22,20
15:00 ▲Hike from Gimmelwald Up Sefinen Valley to Kilchbalm, good for rainy day, don’t do in snow, 2 hours

Day 17 – Ballenberg Folk Museum

Today, Raul and Lauren took a series of trains from Lausanne to Interlaken along the fourth scenic rail journey, the Golden Pass. For the segment starting in Montreux, they decided to ride in one of the classic Belle Epoque cars since they had enjoyed it so much the previous day on the Chocolate Train. It was a great deal because it was covered by their Swiss Pass, and, unlike other scenic rail journeys, a seat reservation was not compulsory.

At Interlaken, the travellers deposited their bags in a handy train station locker and left for the Swiss Open-Air Folk Museum. It is shameful that in the U.S., luggage lockers have all but disappeared from airports and train stations due to “security risks.”

The Museum is actually 50 acres of over 100 transplanted traditional Swiss buildings. Many of these can be likened to museums in and of themselves, displaying traditional clothing, tools, trades, and crafts: watch-making, farming, hat-making, textiles, etc. So this complex is actually a series of museums in one giant museum. The Museum has physically relocated centuries-old buildings to their property, grouping them according to their region of origin. Visitors can enter into almost all of these buildings, which consist of farm-houses, town-houses, granaries, barns, storage buildings, and those dedicated to handicrafts or other occupations. In addition to the structures and many gardens, the Museum is also home to every kind of native Swiss farm animal and even some endangered breeds. The animals are not corralled off in a separate space but rather are integrated among the farmsteads. This fact, along with the live fires burning in the hearths and the actual production of honey, bread, and other goods made it feel like a truly living community. Raul and Lauren had time to visit only about one quarter of the area, but they may return in the next few days if the weather isn’t conducive to high-mountain excursions.

Their destination for the next several nights was Gimmelwald, a tiny village perched high above Lauterbrunnen Valley on a cliff. To reach it, they took a cable car from the valley floor. After checking in, they socialized with a few Canadians at dinner (they were not as animated about hockey as the other Canadian Raul and Lauren know) and explored for a short time a daring path that leads to what is called a via ferrata–a suspension bridge, exceedingly narrow and precarious, requiring the use of a harness and carabiners to traverse safely. This is beyond the scope of Raul and Lauren’s sojourn.

Confœderatio Helvetica
Coat of Arms

Time Plan Sleep in
Day 17 Friday 1 June Gimmelwald
09:01 Depart Lausanne platform 3 on S1 12123 to Montreux
Duration: 30m
Saved S₣5,20
09:31 Arrive Montreux, transfer to platform 5 on D 3118 to Zweisimmen
09:45 Depart Montreux – Golden Pass, reservation S₣15 front-row VIP seats, S₣5-10 other seats
Duration: 1h 47m
Saved S₣49
11:32 Arrive Zweisimmen, transfer to platform 7 on RE 3118 to Interlaken
11:38 Depart Zweisimmen – Golden Pass
Duration: 1h 11m
12:49 Arrive Interlaken Ost, stow bags, transfer to platform 4 on IR 2223 to Brienz
13:04 Depart Interlaken Ost for ▲▲Swiss Open-Air Folk Museum at Ballenberg
Duration: 45m
Saved S₣5,60
13:22 Arrive Brienz
13:37 Depart Brienz BE, Bahnhof on Bus 215 to Ballenberg West, Museum
13:49 ▲▲Swiss Open-Air Folk Museum at Ballenberg, closes at 17:00
Saved S₣20
17:30 Return to Interlaken and pick up bags from train station
18:05 Depart Interlaken Ost platform 2A on R 181 for Gimmelwald, trains 1/hr
Total duration: 55m
Saved S₣17
18:35 Depart Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof on Bus 14143 for Schilthornbahn cable-car station
18:55 Take Schilthornbahn cable-car to Gimmelwald
19:30 Check in to Olle and Maria’s B&B, S₣130/night (4 nights), cash only, free Wi-Fi, breakfast S₣20
Tel: +41 033-855-3575